Namibia to have a financial services adjudicator

Windhoek – Namibia is soon to join other SADC member states in having its financial sector arbitrated by a Financial Services Adjudicator if the proposed Financial Services Adjudicator (FSA) Bill that was formulated by the Namibia Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (Namfisa) is approved.

The Bill which is currently with the Ministry of Finance for finalisation and onward submission to the Ministry of Justice for legal drafting will see Namibia having an Ombudsman for the financial sector rather than having the Bank of Namibia (BoN) acting in that capacity.

If approved Namibia will join other countries like South Africa – which has Financial Services Board and the Office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator as well as Botswana – which has the Office of the Banking Adjudicator.

Namfisa’s Financial Analyst Christopher Swart told The Southern Times said the FSA Act will establish the legal and institutional framework for the consideration and disposal of complaints lodged in terms of Part 5 of the Act in a procedurally fair, economical and expeditious manner.

“This will cover all entities that are currently under the regulatory sphere of Namfisa (the non-banking financial institutions, such as short and long term insurance, pension funds, friendly societies, medical aid funds, investment managers, collective investment scheme companies, capital markets), Bank of Namibia as well as other financial services providers such as Nampost, National Housing Enterprise, Development Bank of Namibia, micro-lenders and the Agricultural Bank of Namibia,” he said.

Swart added said that the adjudicator will not duplicate the work of Bank of Namibia or Namfisa. He said FSA will provide a framework for formal complaints resolution and consumer protection while the (BoN) and Namfisa will continue to have oversight responsibilities over financial institutions regarding regulatory and supervisory matters which are distinctly different from what the FSA is intended to do.

“The FSA Act will establish the Office of the Financial Adjudicator, whose main purpose will be to consider complaints received from the public against financial services providers and to make decisions in respect of such complaints.  The decisions of the Financial Adjudicator will carry the same weight as orders made by the High Court of Namibia, which means that it will not be just another toothless office,” he said.

Information at hand also shows that when the FSA Bill becomes a law, it will also allow for appeals against any decision of the Financial Adjudicator to be directed to the High Court of Namibia.

The Act will also empower the Financial Adjudicator to make appropriate cost orders against financial services providers or any complainant whose conduct during the investigation and determination of the complaint was improper or unreasonable and whose actions caused any unreasonable delays in the finalisation of the complaint.

“Any complainant, whose complaints are deemed playful or aggravating by the Adjudicator, may also be met with an appropriate cost order. Criminal sanctions, similar to contempt of court sanctions, are also provided for in the case of any person who interferes with or interrupts any proceedings conducted by the Adjudicator,” said Swart.

While Namfisa and the central bank are excited at the notion of the Adjudicator, information seen by Southern Times also reveals that the idea was mooted as early as 2011 as the FSA Bill was initially part of the Financial Institutions and Markets (FIM) Bill but after the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation this chapter was removed from the FIM Bill.

“The decision to remove it was to enable the inclusion of providers of financial services.  All challenges have been overcome and the Bill will be ready for tabling very soon. We trust that the Bill will be promulgated during this session of Parliament, together with the FIM and Namfisa Bills,” said Swart.

Swart also said the Financial Services Adjudicator will be an admitted legal practitioner with at least 10 years’ experience and he or she must have specific knowledge of financial services providers and the financial services that they render.

“Members of the public can file any complaint against a financial services provider at the Office of the Financial Services Adjudicator and such complaints will be attended to free of charge.   You will therefore not have to fork out money to pay to a private legal practitioner to represent you, which in itself is a huge benefit,” he said.

Some of the institutions that are classified as financial services providers in terms of this Act are banks and any other banking institution registered with the Bank of Namibia, the Agricultural Bank of Namibia, the Development Bank of Namibia, insurers and insurance agents and brokers registered with Namfisa, registered financial intermediaries (like financial advisors, investment managers and stockbrokers), registered pension funds, medical aid funds and micro lenders.

June 2015
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